100-day Welsh devolution law pledge unlikely to be met

A new law to give Wales more powers may not be introduced as quickly as a senior minister suggested during the election campaign.

I understand that even if the proposed Wales Bill is mentioned in the Queen's Speech at the state opening of parliament on May 27 it won't be among the early laws to be debated by MPs - despite Chancellor George Osborne promising Welsh legislation within 100 days of the election.

The prime minister said last week that he wanted to press ahead with Welsh devolution "as fast as I can" but ministers say they want to get the detail of any new law right rather than meet an artificial deadline. A pledge to ensure Welsh public spending remains higher per head than in England could be met without legislation.

Asked if the government would meet the chancellor's timetable, Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb said: "I think it's really important to show momentum. I think it's really important that we show to Wales that we're going to follow through on our promises and our commitments and right at the heart of that is a commitment to deliver fair funding for Wales.

"But it's also really important that we take time to get the detail right.

"Wales has suffered in the past by having devolution legislation that's been badly written or vaguely written, that's what's led to Welsh government and UK government fighting it out in the courts.

"The only people who benefit from that are the lawyers. So, I want to take the time to get this legislation right so it stands the test of time," he added.

On a visit to Powys during the election campaign, Chancellor George Osborne said: "We are absolutely clear that within 100 days of coming back to office we would have Welsh legislation out there published and going through Parliament to give Wales more control over its own future and also providing security of funding going forward, something that never happened under Labour governments in the past."

If his deadline isn't met, it means there is no chance - if there ever was - of the National Assembly being able to lower the voting age to 16 ahead of next year's Welsh general election.

UPDATE: David Cameron confirmed to First Minister Carwyn Jones that a Wales bill will be in the Queen's Speech. ITV Wales reports that it will emerge in draft form by the end of the year and is likely to be carried over to the next parliamentary year. Stand by for the Wales Act 2016.